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Finding The Fun In Entrepreneurship | Salon Freedom StartUp Story

Entrepreneurs are typically portrayed as overworked, sleep-deprived and near to killing themselves in pursuit of their dream. For good reason – building something from nothing takes time and dedication. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room to have fun.

But what about the entrepreneur who makes fun their business?

Sarah Garcia, the founder and owner of Salon Freedom, can tell you all about the stresses that come with helping others relax.

The Marion, Illinois-based company hosts retreats and continuing education events for hairstylists.

Garcia has over two decades of experience in the hair-care industry, including 13 years running her own studio, which she sold in January 2022.

Prompted by her own feelings of burnout and a passion for hosting events and mentoring younger stylists, Garcia founded Salon Freedom the following year and hit the ground running.

“It all started with a belief that hairstylists deserve more than just a vacation – they deserve a transformative experience they can write off,” Garcia said. “In August 2023, I hosted our international retreat in Cancun, Mexico. Forty women took a leap of faith with me, earning continuing education credit while enjoying a rejuvenating vacation.”

“My philosophy is simple: I love helping hairstylists, and I love the beach. Why not combine the two?”

Salon Freedom’s offerings include branding, marketing and self-care classes, as well as sexual harassment training. She’s also available for business coaching and consulting appointments.

Like everyone setting out on their own, Garcia has made her share of mistakes.

While some business owners advise hiring people to handle the less-savory tasks, there are risks, especially in a business’s early days.

“I partnered with a travel agent for my first retreat. I was concerned about logistics like missed flights, insurance, and transportation – I wanted to delegate those worries so I could focus on the fun part: curating an unforgettable experience with amazing speakers for my fellow stylists,” Garcia said.

“I put down $10,000 of my own money for a deposit… it backfired. Partnering with an agent meant losing out on booking benefits and banquet perks. I ended up footing the bell for every event that went on at the resort, which was a pretty expensive mistake.”

Garcia said she’d been warned by her travel agent partner about what benefits she’d be forfeiting, but failed to realize the extent of what that meant.

She ended up draining her entire savings account to pay for that trip, but learned some other valuable lessons along the way.

In offering advice to other stylists looking to strike out on their own, she said it’s important to remember that you can always negotiate the price tag down.

“Just because a resort quotes you a price doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Always explore your options by getting multiple bids,” Garcia said. “This not only gives you a broader perspective but also provides leverage when negotiating for a better deal.”

She said it’s also important to remember that progress is not always a straight line. Garcia vowed earlier in her career that she would never return to her hometown, Pinckneyville, Illinois.

The salon she operated for 13 years? It was in Pinckneyville.

“Don’t make bold claims like, ‘I will never…,’ she said.

She’s also quick to extoll the benefits of a strong support network – especially friends and family.

“My dad was not only my greatest mentor but also my guiding light throughout my whole life. He passed away 12 days after I sold my business but I feel his presence accompanying me on this journey every step of the way,” Garcia said. “My friend Britni Bateman’s marketing genius has propelled my endeavors forward. My first retreat was a success because of my family.These individuals have all played pivotal roles in my journey of healing, growth, and success.”

She’s also found resources to help grow her business acumen. The Small Business Development Centers, operated by the Small Business Administration, offer counseling, training and technical assistance to help develop business strategies, operations finances, marketing, and other areas to help growth and expansion.

Garcia said tools like Thrive Cart, a web-based shopping software program, have been essential in getting her business up and running as well.

Starting a business is a big, risky move, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable too. Salon Freedom is a prime example of how you can take something you love and share that passion with others, while helping them along the way.

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